Grace Mary Crowfoot, née Hood (and often known as 'Molly') was born in Lincolnshire in 1878. Her grandfather was something of a collector of Egyptian antiquities, the first – though not the last – archaeological and Egyptian influence on Grace’s life. It was in Egypt that Grace met and married John Winter Crowfoot in 1909, a classics scholar and ex-lecturer at Birmingham university who in the same year took up a post as an inspector in the Egyptian Ministry of Education.
However, Grace Crowfoot was far more than just another colonial expatriate wife. She was an acknowledged expert on Ancient Egyptian textiles and studied with local women at Khartoum to become an expert weaver with the primitive traditional Egyptian looms. What’s more, she had taken part in the cave excavations at Tana Bertrand in 1908, unearthing beads and other signs of early occupation and publishing her findings. Grace had also trained as a midwife and together with two friends who trained with her set up the first midwifery school in the Sudan. Add to this the publication of almost a dozen books on Sudanese and Egyptian botany, and handcrafts and weaving, and Grace’s career achievements were both varied and successful.
During her husband’s tenure in the Egyptian Civil Service and then as Principal of Gordon College in Khartoum, Grace had four daughters, including Dorothy Grace Hodgkin, Nobel Prize-winning chemist.
In the mid-1950s, Grace was involved with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, writing and publishing papers regarding the textiles found at the Qumran site. In 1957, a little after the final discoveries at Qumran, Grace Crowfoot died of leukaemia not long before her 80th birthday.
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